Ephs tie top-ranked team in New England

It was a week of highs and lows for men’s soccer (2-1-1, 1-0-1 in the NESCAC), who posted a dominating midweek victory over Westfield State on Wednesday before tying Bowdoin, the top-ranked team in New England and fifth in the country, on its home turf this weekend. Captain Bryan McCoy ’04 called the result at Bowdoin “disappointing,” and indeed the Ephs figured to have victory in the crosshairs after opening up a 2-0 lead after 12 minutes, and then again when the team held a 3-2 lead with just 27 seconds remaining on the clock.

“It was a very exciting match in some senses,” Eph Head Coach Mike Russo said. “It was a feisty game. We thought we had it there with 27 seconds left, but they never let up.”

McCoy was decidedly less diplomatic. “The result at Bowdoin was not to our satisfaction,” he said. “Any time that you get up on a team two-nil or when you’re winning the game with less than a minute left to play and you don’t come out with the win, you’re not going to walk away happy.”

Brett Olsen ’07 got the Ephs on the board with a goal at the 10:01 mark. Josh Bolton ’06 sent a corner kick off the peg of Ryan Olsen ’04 past the Bowdoin goalkeeper, Travis Derr, to make it a 2-0 Williams advantage a mere minute and a half later.

McCoy was thrilled with the effort his mates put out in the first few minutes on the field: “In the second half they did have us on our heels a bit but we had our opportunities as well,” he said. “The only time that one team really dominated the game was the first 20 minutes, and that was sort of Williams soccer at its peak; that was the high point of the game. We saw how we can look and we saw what it would be like if we could play our game together for a whole 90 minutes.”

Bowdoin made it a 2-1 game in the 24th minute when Bobby Desilets scored his first goal off an assist from Andrew Russo. The Polar Bears went on to tie the game in the 72nd minute of play when John Hollis scored on a header off a feed from Jacques Guana.

With time winding down, Khari Stephenson ’04 seemed to have set the Ephs up for a dramatic victory with his goal at the 87:24 mark, but unfortunately for the Eph faithful, Desilets had one more goal left in his tank.

Derr collected the ball at the midfield off a throw-in, and with his entire team crashing the box, he sent a boot cascading downfield. Desilets’ clutch score with 27 seconds remaining on the clock followed what Russo described as a “melee in front of the goal” and sent the game into overtime with the scored tied at three apiece.

If the scene just described sounds familiar, perhaps it is because it is nearly identical to the one fans of the Ephs might have seen on the exact same field on Nov. 9, 2002, when Ryan Olsen scored a dramatic goal in the semifinal round of the NESCAC Tournament against Middlebury. Ryan Olsen’s goal came with the Ephs trailing by a score of 1-0 with but three seconds remaining in regulation, and came on the heels of a ‘Hail Mary’-type pass sent into the Panther 18-yard box from midfield by Williams goalkeeper Nick Armington ’06.

The Ephs went on to win that contest 2-1 in overtime, but they were not so fortunate on Saturday. Indeed, both teams would have their opportunities but neither side could put the ball in the net, and thus the game ended in a 3-3 tie.

“There was a real sense of déjà vu with it coming on the same field as Ryan’s goal last season,” McCoy said. “I like to think there was something we could have done to stop the goal but sometimes you get unlucky.”

Though the Ephs certainly were in a position to win the game, the result was hardly dreadful – lucky or unlucky as the case may be. Bowdoin is currently ranked fifth in the country by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, and the could-have-been perhaps should-have-been, victory speaks volumes about the caliber of this Eph team, particularly following its 2-0 defeat against Babson in the season opener.

Earlier in the week the Ephs turned in a tour de force showing of their offensive prowess at Cole Field in a 10-0 victory over Westfield State (0-4). Williams got on the board early, courtesy of the efforts of Ryan Olsen who scored three goals in the first 18 minutes of play; before it was over, six different Ephs had scored, including three players who scored the first goals of their collegiate careers.

“We came out really hard in this game,” Ryan Olsen said. “We hadn’t scored a first-half goal all year, so we really wanted to come out on them hard and put them away in the first half and that’s exactly what we did.”

Indeed, the Ephs scored five times in the first half, but the real story was Ryan Olsen. For a team that has struggled to score goals following the graduation of the College’s most prolific scorer, Alex Blake ’03, Ryan Olsen’s effort was a sight for sore eyes.

The senior scored his first goal off of an assist from Bolton and Stephenson, his second – a mere 41 seconds later – off a feed from Stephenson, and his third off a pass from Brett Olsen.

“Seeing Ryan come through like that was huge,” Russo said. “He had a hat trick in the first 15 minutes I think it was, and that was the real turning point. I think after we got the first two goals they stopped playing as hard and the other goals followed from there.”

Stephenson picked up where the torrid Ryan Olsen left off, scoring two goals within three minutes of each other to stretch the Ephs’ lead to 5-0. Assisting on Stephenson’s first goal was Brett Olsen, while it was Andreas Boye ’04 who set up the second.

The faces might have been different but it was more of the same in the second half as the Ephs continued to assault the reeling Owls. Brett Olsen tallied the first goal of his Williams career seven minutes into the second half to make it a 6-0 Eph advantage. Bolton stretched the lead to 7-0 seven minutes later, scoring off a feed from Dan MacGregor ’07.

The first two goals in the career of John Hillman ’07 sandwiched the first goal from Dana Leary ’07; Hillman’s score in the 82nd minute was the 10th and final goal scored on the day.

The Ephs will have the coming week off as they prepare for next Saturday’s match at Trinity (1-1). That game is slated for a 12 p.m. start.